Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Pattern cutting course - update

Idea from Winifred Aldrich
I haven't posted about my pattern cutting course for ages. Partly because I have a scrapbook of the shapes I've cut and don't really see the point of photographing them for my log - although, on the positive side the photos won't fall apart in the way the glued in pieces do. So I may have to consider it. The other part is that I'm not really enjoying this class - I've only just admitted this to myself. I didn't go last week as I had just returned from a long weekend involving poor beds and lots of travelling. I felt tired and didn't have anything in particular prepared. Tonight I'm sitting in the college café waiting for the class time - I got here very quickly tonight and wonder if it's because it's getting lighter in the evening - clocks change soon here. I really thought about not coming,  though. I've got a cold and nothing prepared. Sound familiar? Anyway,  I did come and am taking some time to write up a blog post.

I still really don't have anything prepared as I've been busy making DH's jeans in my sewing world and so many things in my non sewing world. However,  R will be interested in seeing my finished jeans as I spent one of my skirt pattern making classes working on my jeans pattern. I'll take it on Wednesday to let D see of course.       

Maybe it's that it's skirts. I rarely wear them these days - and have so many at home. There are probably a couple of styles I'd be interested in, though. Last term in dressmaking I made a skirt which I thought I'd like but I just don't. It doesn't even fit well, despite numerous alterations and adjustments.

Well, I drafted the above a couple of weeks ago. I'm still not very well which is perhaps affecting my thinking - and certainly my doing!

That night in class, I decided to draft and make a gored skirt with shaped yoke and low flare - not godets. Design from Winifred Aldrich. I have a black evening skirt in crepe like this. I loved the skirt and felt fabulous in it,  but it is too small for me. I'm not sure where it is so can't photograph it. I thought it would be nice to recreate the skirt in an evening material,  perhaps in a colour better for me than black.  That skirt didn't have a shaped yoke,  though.  Sarah,  my classmate, suggested the shaped yoke sewing might be difficult and I agreed with her but decided to go ahead. One of the wedding dresses my daughter looked at had a piece of sewing that would use this skill,  so I thought I'd try it. I had suggested to my daughter that the particular section was probably too difficult for me - even on the expensive dress she tried on,  there was puckering. I now know that I'd require a lot of practice and I will not make a dress version including thus! 

I don't have photographs of my process. 

I discovered (slightly too late!) that my blocks, on card, didn't accurately match. Because of my asymmetry, I had to block the two sides of my body separately. Block = sloper. So I ended up with a back left, back right, front left and front right. When I first mentioned that the side seams didn't match, which of course they have to do to sew up accurately, R obviously didn't realise what I meant and told me it was because of my shape. I should have listened to my inner voice!

Because my skirt block consists of 4 pieces, this means that in making up a skirt I have to cut on single fabric - no folded fabric for me! Each part its further divided into 2 gores so 8 in all.

My first task was to trace around my basic skirt block (no seam allowances). I ended up with a full front and a full back piece. I should have adjusted the length before this point but I'll come to that.

I then drew in a shaped yoke. It was rather difficult to ensure the two sides were the same - I don't think I managed it. When drawing on a half block, for a pattern to be cut out, the two sides are automatically the same.

I then dropped vertical lines from the shaped points. There was one line on each half of the front and each half of the back. This would make the 8 gores. I had to mark balance points (ie matching points) halfway down each vertical line; I measured from the bottom.

I extended the waist darts to the waistline. I then cut the yoke from the paper, closed the darts and traced out the resultant yoke outline on a new piece of paper.

For the gores, I cut out the skirt pattern and separated out the 8 gores. I carefully numbered them but I did get into trouble later! There is a standard way of laying things out - back on left and front on right and I think I didn't do that. I then extended the hemline on each side of each gore by 7cm, creating the flare, and joined the outer point with the balance points. I was doing this by sticking on extra paper - it would have been far easier to trace around each gore onto a piece of paper with sufficient space simply to draw the extensions. I had to draw round the taped papers anyway as they were difficult to handle. I'll know next time.
My first problems arose here because of the discrepancy between back and front lengths. I just hadn't taken that into account. R said I needed to match the top at the waistline and alter the length. But I had spent a long time creating 8 gores! Fortunately, I had measured my gore balance points from the bottom so these all matched; I was able to subtract the small difference from the middle of the straight length.

I didn't get all this done in class and had to continue at home. At home, I altered the length of the 4 front gores then drew around them onto paper. I now had 10 new pieces of paper - 8 gores and back and front yokes. I then added seam allowances to all the pieces. This led to a second problem. I added ½" seam allowances rather than 1cm (about ⅜") because I was rushing to get a toile made for the class and it was easier.

Now it sounds pretty easy to pin piece 1 to piece 2 to piece 3 etc, doesn't it? Well I don't know how many times I got mixed up! Not helped by calico being the same on each side. I was convinced I was doing it correctly but lengths didn't match ... Eventually, I got it sorted. I now had a front piece consisting of 4 sewn together gores and a back piece, likewise.

I then sewed the yokes to the tops of the pieces. This is where a smaller seam allowance would have been helpful. I found it incredibly difficult to do this. I wasn't happy with the resultant seams. My points weren't pointy. I resolved to get help from R. R did say it would be much easier in wool,  for example.

I sewed back and front together, leaving an opening at the side. I was aware that the seam side tops didn't  match. How come I didn't notice that previously?  I'm not sure much was made of truing seams etc. I see how important that is.

R was impressed I'd got as far as I had. I asked her about sewing the yoke to the skirt and she said she'd demonstrate after I made the necessary fitting changes

I don't have a picture of the skirt at this stage. I knew it was too big at the waist but was actually pretty pleased with it.

The fitting changes were:
Raising the front yoke at one side by 1.5 cm to match the back
Taking some fabric out of top of front yoke, increasing the curve - length at top reduced
Taking off 1 cm at side seams of skirt and yoke.
Adding 3 cm to depth of front yoke.
I had already added seam allowances but I had to add them again as basically the whole thing was too low ie add another 1 cms to front and back yokes, all round.
R didn't alter back yoke other than at side seams as she felt my poor sewing had distorted the shape and she couldn't judge. It's likely some fabric will need to be taken out of top as per front.
I had been thinking waistband, and that this would extend up from yoke,  but we decided a facing would give a cleaner line - hence the need for additional length.

I spent the rest of the class making the changes highlighted. I then detached the back yoke from the skirt. We pressed out the previous seam lines and R demonstrated how to sew the yoke onto the skirt.  This is rather like princess seams as opposing shapes are sewn together.  Then pivoting with needle down at the peaks and troughs of the design. She advised sewing with the yoke on top,  and when pivoting,  cut into the yoke fabric to allow it to move more freely. I had used loads of pins but R advised against using any pins. Now whether it was because of my slightly large seam allowance,  I don't know but this didn't work out well. The yoke was too small! It didn't reach the sides are either side.  I couldn't see how that could be.  It was the end of class but R asked if I'd like to take it to class on Wednesday (I attend a continuation dressmaking class run by D but R has a beginner sewing class at the same time) if I could get the changes made. I agreed I'd try. 

I retrospect,  I wonder if the calico had been reversed. I later marked numbers on the actual calico but didn't specifically mark yokes, left/right,  wrong side/right side. And see end of post! 

I had made a bit of a bosh redrawing my front yoke.  I realised that the tucks taken at the top of the waistband couldn't go all the way down or my points wouldn't match. Of course I had already drawn up,  done seam allowances (1 cm) and cut out a new yoke before I figured that out!!

Tonight I redid both back and front yokes,  making changes to the original paper pattern. This took rather a long time. I did it carefully this time. I then attached the yokes to the skirt,  using R's method with some success, I thought,  not wonderful but a distinct improvement.

I decided against putting in a zipper extension at this stage until fitting was checked but tacked a zip in so I could try on easily

It just isn't working!!

The back is awful - I'm not letting you see that! At least not on me! My new model isn't yet adjusted to my size so the skirt is a bit big for her (not sure what I'll call her yet! Suggestions? ) 

The yoke seams are lumpy and unattractive despite pressing. I'll take it tomorrow but think I'd really rather be working on my trousers.  Tomorrow is the second last trouser class and there's only one pattern making class left, at which we're doing the sleeves we didn't do earlier in the term, so I need to take my bodice block. So effectively tomorrow is the last chance for the skirt (but patternmaking next term is trousers...)
To be honest,  I'm less concerned at this stage about actually producing a skirt than I am in finding out how to use my blocks. I'm not a designer and have no desire to become one - I'm quite happy trying to follow a design produced by someone else. That of course is what a paper pattern is. I'd like to be able to use the proper sizing of the block to produce a pattern with some of the design features of commercial patterns. I'm happy with a bit of mix and match to make it my own.

I'll update.

Well,  my update is that I'm too unwell today to do the things I normally do,  so I'm not going to class,  which involves a 2 hour plus return journey for a 2 hour class. I'm not up to it. I texted R and D to tell them. I told R of the 'shelf' at the back of the shirt (I didn't text a picture) She thinks I haven't taken out some of the dart fullness and that sewing is poor. The latter is true; I need a lot more practice at this. I did, however, take out all of the dart fullness. R says she will 'alter the pattern' next Monday.

In the meantime,  I was (slowly and gently) clearing up my sewing room as it reverts to its 'usual' role of dining room for Easter. My oldest daughter is coming with her husband and sons on Saturday for 10 days (not all with us).  I won't be sewing while they're here.  Middle daughter is cat sitting for them.  Youngest daughter and fiancé are coming on Good Friday for the weekend and my mother for a few days.  

I decided to take some photos on my phone to put in this blog so I could post. I discovered an interesting thing which might account for some of my problems. Can you see?  I bet you more quickly than I did!!
Yes, that's right.  Piece 1 beneath,  before tracing and seam allowances added. Piece 1 above after seam allowances added.  Yes,  I've made a mirror image but have drawn the zip on the wrong side!  No wonder I had problems! 

I must improve my labelling of both pattern pieces and fabric pieces after I have cut out. I kept paper pattern and cut piece together until I pinned but that doesn't help when you've traced a mirror image! 

will update if I achieve anything next week. 

Update - R pinched out excess fabric along junction of yoke and seam. The sewing was a problem but the fit was the bigger issue. I didn't take it any further.


  1. Hello - I'm Joyce from Northern Ireland and I have been reading your blog for just a short time.....seems to me you need a break from all your frustrating blocking and so on....I think it must be great to have the confidence to even start doing this...I couldn't so the Big 4 and Style arc will have to suffice for me.
    I hope you'll soon be feeling better especially with your visitors arriving next week.
    Have a son just over the border and we use a house of his in Alnwick to stay in every year....we love Northumberland....such wonderful scenery and beaches to walk on.....when the haar is not visible of course.

    1. Hi Joyce, lovely to hear from you. I agree that I need a break. I started out of necessity - the changes I need to make to the big 4 etc weren't working and I didn't know enough about pattern drafting to alter them properly. I've put off my daughter and family for 24 hours as I have a chest infection with pleuritic pain; just started on antibiotics yesterday and they haven't kicked in yet.
      Yes, Northumberland is lovely. I like Alnwick. I love books and like to visit Barter Books in the old station building.
      My latest garment, on hold, is an 'easy' cardigan from the big 4.

    2. PS I love your machine embroidery. I have a great piece showing a storm over the Tay. Needless to say, I bought that!

    3. Thanks for your kind comment.....I love Barter books too...DH likes the train and the coffee!!
      I recently made a 'cardigan' McCalls 6802 but I made it in a Milo wool remnant from The Fabric Godmother...really like a blanket - for next Autumn...turned out well, surprisingly - I found the knit fabric very easy to work with really.
      Hope you soon feel well again...take care. Joyce

    4. Your cardigan sounds nice. I looked at some reviews on PR but they're not so positive. Mine is a McCall's too.
      I saw my daughter and family briefly today, en route to in-laws' caravan near Bamburgh and now coming here Friday until Monday. So I have a bit longer to recover. I'm glad of that; boy, do I need it!


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